NBA Draft Winners, Losers: It was a good night in Philadelphia, Minnesota

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Let’s be honest, judging the winners and losers hours after the draft is throwing darts at a board. There are picks and moves we think are smart that turn out to fall flat, and there are picks that are smart we don’t see coming. This year, a lot of people around the league thought that someone in this draft between picks five and 12 would turn out to be a stud — they all have potential and flaws, but who will work and be able to fill in the holes in their game? It’s too early to know.

That doesn’t stop us from making our projections.

Here ar our 2017 NBA Draft winners and losers.

WINNERS:

The Minnesota Timberwolves. When news of them pushing for a Jimmy Butler trade came up, I thought it foolish to give up a lot of quality pieces for a guy not on the timeline with Karl-Anthony Towns. However, this deal was a good one. Minnesota got Butler and the No. 16 pick (Justin Patton) for the No. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen), Zach LaVine (an athletic two guard coming off an ACL injury), and Kris Dunn (who was unimpressive as a rookie, but maybe bounces back). This is a great deal giving the Timberwolves both another strong defender, someone who knows Tom Thibodeau’s system, and a professional locker room leader. Minnesota now starts Ricky Rubio, Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Towns, and they look like a playoff team next season.

The Philadelphia 76ers. Unlike a certain GM in Boston, Bryan Colangelo and the Sixers were willing to push their chips into the middle of the table to get their three stars. Now they have it after trading for the No. 1 pick (at a fairly high cost, but if you have the chips this is what they are for). Markelle Fultz was taken with the top pick to go with Ben Simmons (last year’s No. 1) and Joel Embiid. Add in quality players around them like Dario Saric and Robert Covington, and the Sixers potentially have a foundation for greatness. now they just need to keep everyone healthy for a season.

The Sacramento Kings. It seems weird to type this, but they nailed this draft. They got their point guard of the future in De'Aaron Fox (who now gets to go up against Lonzo Ball four times a season — that’s going to be fun). They traded out of the No. 10 pick to get the No. 15 and 20, and they got Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. I’m higher on Jackson than most, but he certainly should be an NBA rotation player. And Giles, if healthy and anywhere near back to form, could be the steal of this draft. Frank Mason was a solid second round get. The Kings were a smart, mature franchise for a night. We’ll see if this is a trend.

Golden State Warriors. They didn’t have a pick in this draft, but they bought one early in the second round to land Jordan Bell (Long Beach Poly shout out). He showed in the NCAA tournament against Kansas he showed how he is a fierce defender of multiple positions (and he did the same at the combine). He’s athletic, has an NBA body, but he can score a little around the basket or from farther out if left wide open — and on the Warriors he’ll be left wide open. Bell is a nice player but this is a perfect fit.

LOSERS:

The Chicago Bulls. Management deciding it couldn’t build around Jimmy Butler and it was time to move on to a real rebuild is completely legitimate — but then you’ve got to get more back for an All-NBA player who is elite on both ends of the court. Maybe Lauri Markkanen is more than just a stretch four, hopefully, Zach LaVine fully recovers from his ACL injury, and Kris Dunn can’t be a bad as he looked last year — and that’s still not enough. Butler had time left on his contract, there was no rush to get this done, yet the Bulls pulled the trigger on a sub-par package that slows those rebuilding efforts. It was not pretty in the Windy City.

Boston Celtics fans. They were teased all day with dreams of Kristaps Porzingis, or Butler, or Paul George, and in the end they got Jayson Tatum. I like the Celtics’ picks, I think Semi Ojeleye could be a steal in the second round. But all day long Celtics fans were told of big dreams, none of which yet came to pass and Danny Ainge continues to hold on to his chips. Someday he’ll make a move. Probably. But that day is not today.

Watch Jamal Murray, Kawhi Leonard score first buckets in returns

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It’s only preseason. But if you’ve sat out an entire season with an ACL injury,  just getting on the court feels like a milestone.

And getting your first bucket back feels memorable.

That happened for the Nuggets Jamal Murray and the Clippers Kawhi Leonard on Monday night.

For Murray, the bucket came on a corner 3 in transition.

Murray also showed flashes he’s getting his handle and wiggle back, something that made him a great fit with Nikola Jokic.

Leonard wasted no time, scoring the Clippers’ first bucket by lulling his defender to sleep and then shooting the pull-up 3.

I feel we’re going to see a lot more of that this season.

The NBA is just better with these two back on the court.

 

Cavaliers Evan Mobley out 1-2 weeks with sprained ankle

2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day
Nick Falzerano/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the best frontcourt in the East this season with All-Star Jarrett Allen and the emerging star Evan Mobley, but it may be a few weeks before we see them together.

Mobley is out 1-2 weeks with a sprained right ankle, the Cavaliers announced a couple of days before their preseason opener. Mobley stepped on a teammate’s foot and rolled his ankle during practice, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Mobley, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in his first campaign, but his more significant impact was on the defensive end. Mobley earned All-Defensive Team consideration as a rookie — an incredibly rare feat — and with Allen formed an impressive backstop for teams trying to drive the paint.

Reports out of Cavaliers training camp rave about the improvements made in Mobley’s offensive game, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to see that for ourselves now. Mobley, with a more consistent face-up game and jumper, has the potential to develop into a top 15, maybe even top-10 player in the league. The Cavaliers are banking on the young core of Mobley, Allen, Darius Garland and the just acquired Donovan Mitchell to be able to take the team far in the next few years, with Mobley’s improvement key to just how far they can go.

It sounds like Mobley will be good to go for the start of the season.

Karl-Anthony Towns just cleared to walk Saturday following non-COVID illness

Karl-Anthony Towns Offseaon Workout
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
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Karl-Anthony Towns has not been in camp with the Timberwolves, sidelined by a non-COVID illness. Beyond that, there were not a lot of details other than his girlfriend Jordyn Woods saying on social media that she had taken him to the hospital.

Towns spoke to the media for the first time this season on Monday and said he was just cleared to walk again on Saturday, but did not get into detail about whatever illness he is dealing with.

First, it is Towns’ right if and when to disclose what he went through. This is not an on-court injury leading to a loss of playing time, and it is his call to talk about.

Towns has been sidelined before by illness, including COVID. After losing his mother and other family members to the disease, he also had a long battle with it. Fortunately, this is not that virus, but whatever it was it sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

That missed training camp is a setback as the Timberwolves try to get used to a two-big lineup with KAT and Rudy Gobert, plus some other new faces. Still, Towns and Minnesota should be good to go by the start of the season, a team thinking playoffs and much more after spending big this offseason.

Lakers reportedly ‘seriously considered’ Westbrook trade for Hield, Turner

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“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it. So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

That was Lakers GM Rob Pelinka on media day talking about the possibility of the Lakers trading the only two first-round picks they control this decade — 2027 and 2029 — to upgrade this roster around LeBron. Pelinka was clear the Lakers were committed to building a winner around LeBron, “We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, and he committed to us on a long-term contract, a three-year contract… He committed to our organization. That’s gotta be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”

But should that include a Russell Westbrook trade to Indiana for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner? Shams Charania of The Athletic updated and added to the extensive previous reporting on this trade, saying the Lakers kept the door open right up to the start of training camp but didn’t pull the trigger.

Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued…

If they were going to gamble on a make-or-break move of this magnitude, the thinking went, then everyone had to have confidence in the same vision. But when that wasn’t the case, sources say, the choice was made by Pelinka to remain patient and see, yet again, if Westbrook might find a way to make this imperfect fit with the Lakers work.

Hield and Turner would absolutely improve the Lakers. Turner can play the five, is an elite shot blocker who could provide a strong defensive back line next to Anthony Davis, and is a respectable 3-point shooter who can space the floor. He’s a natural fit. Hield brings shooting that the Lakers have coveted for years and need more of now.

That trade would have moved the Lakers up the ladder to a solid playoff team in the West. Would that trade make the Lakers contenders? Probably not. It still would have come back to the bubble version of Davis and LeBron being ready for the final 16-game sprint to have a puncher’s chance (that may be the case regardless of other moves). Also, it would have messed with future free agency plans in Los Angeles — the Lakers can have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase Kyrie Irving (although Shams reports that’s not in their plans) or other name players, Hield is owed $19.3 million next season and Turner will be a free agent the Lakers would need to re-sign. This deal would end the dream of a free agent taking a little less than the max to come to the Lakers (a dream not likely to come to reality anyway).

As Pelinka said, the Lakers have one shot with trading their two picks to upgrade the roster — they have to hit a home run, this can’t be a solid single. The Lakers were not convinced Hield and Turner could be that home run tandem.

So Los Angeles will go into the season with a starting five of Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron, Davis, and Damian Jones, with a bench of Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schroder. The Lakers will see if it fits, how far it looks like this group can take them under new coach Darvin Ham, and watch the market to see what other stars could become available.

The Lakers aren’t done dealing, but it looks like a deal with Indiana is now in the rearview mirror.